Evangelicals view the Reformation as a glorious, Holy Spirit-led movement to return the church to God’s Word and simple, saving faith in Jesus Christ. Thank God for the Reformers and their defiance of Roman authority, legalism, and ritualism. It’s entirely understandable that very few Catholics viewed the Reformation with any kind of appreciation over the years.
Next year there’ll be lots of handshaking and backslapping between some Catholics and some Protestant leaders in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We’ve already seeing some of this friendly collegiality at preliminary events.
Since Vatican II, the Catholic church has openly expressed its goal to recover the “separated brethren” into its fold. For Catholics, Christian “unity” specifically means submission to the pope of Rome. Read the text below slowly and carefully:
“When such (ecumenical) actions are undertaken prudently and patiently by the Catholic faithful, with the attentive guidance of their bishops, they promote justice and truth, concord and collaboration, as well as the spirit of brotherly love and unity. This is the way that, when the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion have been gradually overcome, all Christians will at last, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, be gathered into the one and only Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning. We believe that this unity subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time.” – from Unitatis Redintegratio (“Restoration of Unity”), The Second Vatican Council, 1964
Official Catholic attitudes will be warmly conciliatory during the anniversary commemorations, but if you want to learn what Catholics really think about the Reformation, see the recent articles below from conservative Catholic sources. The Catholic hierarchy will need to constantly remind its militantly conservative and traditionalist factions that, when it comes to Reformation celebrations and ecumenical glad handing, the end will justify the disingenuous means.
Cardinal Muller: No Reason to Celebrate Protestant Reformation
The best way for Catholics to mark the Reformation is to celebrate the papacy